Life Stills (2022)

This series of painting originates from my love for the work of the great film directors. I spent many hours discovering and rediscovering them throughout the past two decades, in a process that keeps on recurring with different frequency and intensity.

It is not strictly about the fact that those directors can ‘paint’ with the camera; there are, yes, intrinsic visual values in the scenes, but my choice was guided by those images I could respond emotionally and build with them a personal aesthetic.
The start of the project has its roots in the days of ‘analogue’, when I found myself taking photographs of the television screen while watching (or re-watching) on VHS those that were (or were to become), some of my favourite films. A scene would unexpectedly catch my attention and I would take a few photographs of it as it unfolded. Then the days of digital kicked in. The poetic glow of imperfection gave way to a strange, glossy hyperrealism. The photo-shots became screenshots as I gradually adapted to this new fruition of the images, and I was happily relieved to find that even those sharper representations had some flaws. They contained pixels, and their quality could vary.
I then started to look at my collection of stills, and I realised that almost all of the frames displayed two personages, either in a sort of tension, whether of love, or confrontation ¬– or both – or in a moment of stillness, before a change of fate was about to land upon them. All of this, in an image that would also bare powerful visual qualities per se, concentrated in one split second of beautiful, balanced composition.
That is when the idea of making paintings out of those images came, and I selected the ‘one’ shot among the similar ones from a sequence that would be the ‘still life’ of preference. Many films I love did not provide me with an image, and, on contrary, sometimes I would collect more stills from a same film. I went back to the pleasure of just watching and only when I felt that call, I would freeze the moment.
The small scale would help to highlight the intimacy of these scenes – even in the grandest and most crowded cinema hall, I feel I am embracing the big screen and sizing it down until it fits ‘inside’ of me. That act of watching is a totally personal moment. The texture of the canvas for me evokes the grainy feel of the analogic image, opposed sometimes to the oily shine of the paint – a constant memento of the subjectivity of this whole operation of imperfectly reproducing an imperfect image, and constructing for hours a split-second apparition.

Francesca Ricci, 2014–2022